The Labour Party has maintained its hold on all three Newcastle upon Tyne constituencies in the 2017 general election, in what was a positive night for Labour but a disastrous one for the Tories.
The UK now has a hung parliament, with Labour having gained seats while the Tory’s have lost their overall majority.
In all of the city’s three constituencies – Newcastle upon Tyne Central, Newcastle upon Tyne East and Newcastle upon Tyne North – Labour MPs were elected with comfortable majorities.
In Newcastle upon Tyne Central, Labour’s Chi Unwurah held the seat with a majority of 14,937, romping home with 24,071 votes. The Conservatives were in second place with 9,134 votes and the Liberal Democrats in third with 1,812. UKIP trailed in fifth with 1,482 votes and the Greens came last with 595.
Born in Wallsend, Chi Unwurah grew up in Kenton. Before she became an MP, she worked in the IT sector and was head of telecoms technology for Ofcom. Chi Unwurah has been Newcastle Central’s MP since 2010.
Ms Unwurah said, “It’s fantastic. I’m so proud to be the MP for Newcastle Central again. Our positive message in investing in people, business and infrastructure and a growing economy clearly struck a chord with people.”
In Newcastle upon Tyne East, Labour’s Nick Brown – who has held the seat since 1983 – galloped home with a majority of 19,261 and 28,127 votes. The Conservatives were a distant second with 8,866 votes followed by the Lib Dems with 2,574. UKIP came in fourth with 1,315 votes and the Greens were last with 755.
Nick Brown has served as Labour’s chief whip and as the party’s north east minister. Before he became an MP, he worked for the General and Municipal Workers’ Union and was a councillor in Newcastle.
Nick Brown said the result was “really quite exceptional. I am delighted and very proud that the people I have represented for so long continue to put their trust in me.”
“Labour’s manifesto definitely had a resonance with Labour voters and former Labour voters. People were saying this is more like the Labour Party we used to believe in. And Jeremy Corbyn had a first-rate campaign.”
The contest in Newcastle upon Tyne North saw Labour’s Catherine McKinnell win 26,729 votes, up significantly from the 20,689 she got in 2015. Her majority was 10,349.
Next came the Conservatives with 16,380 votes, an improvement on the 2015 Tory total of 10,536. The Lib Dems got 2,533, UKIP 1,780 and the Greens 513. The North of England Community Alliance trailed in last with 353.
Denton-born Catherine McKinnell has served as a shadow education minister, a shadow minister for treasury, a shadow attorney general and a shadow solicitor general. She has supported a campaign to forbid junk food adverts before 9 pm and has criticised Take That star Gary Barlow for his tax affairs.
Ms McKinnell said, “I am really delighted with the result. I am honoured and humbled by the number of voters in Newcastle North who put their trust in me again.”
The Tories had been targeting some ‘safe’ Labour seats in the north east – such as North West Durham, Hartlepool and Sedgefield – but even when they were polling at 25 points ahead of Labour at the start of the election campaign, they probably considered the Newcastle constituencies out of reach.
But the Conservatives did not win most of the north-east seats they were targeting. The only seat the Tories gained from Labour in the north east was Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East.
After Theresa May announced the snap election, the national polls had the Tories up to 25 points in the lead. Labour, however, managed to claw much of that back. Polls in the later stages of the contest ranged from Labour being 1 point to 12 points behind.
Labour’s fightback has been credited to an ambitious, fully costed manifesto that contained a number of popular policies and to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign performance was much better than many people expected.
The Tories, on the other hand, were criticised for having an uncosted manifesto and for unpopular policies such as the dementia tax. Theresa May’s campaign performance was also seen as lacklustre, with the Prime Minister facing criticism for ducking TV debates and for repeating soundbites rather than properly answering questions from journalists and the public.
Labour’s Chi Onwurah wins first seat of the night – Newcastle Central
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 8, 2017
It remains to be seen if Theresa May will stay on as Prime Minister. There is talk of a challenge to May from Boris Johnson. Former Tory MP George Osbourne has described the Conservative manifesto as “one of the worst manifestos in history” and said the exit polls indicating a Labour fightback were “catastrophic.”
But other Tories seem to want May to continue and dread the instability that will be caused by a leadership challenge.
At the time of writing, Labour had gained 40.2 % of the vote and the Tories 42.36%, with Labour having won 260 seats (up 31) and the Tories 312 (down 13). The Liberal Democrats have won 12 seats (up 4) and the SNP 35 (down 19).
The most likely government to emerge from all this will be a Conservative administration propped up by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. This could be an interesting pairing as – though the DUP are socially conservative and keen supporters of Brexit – the party has a history of voting against most of the Tories’ austerity legislation.
As well as the general election, however, today saw another important contest. Sunderland and Newcastle have long competed to see who can declare the first result of the election.
Newcastle was the first mainland UK area to declare the result of the Brexit vote while a Sunderland constituency has been the first to declare in the last five general elections.
Tonight’s first result was declared by Newcastle Central. The seat declared at 11.00 pm, just an hour after the polls had closed. The second constituency to declare was Houghton and Sunderland South just seven minutes later.
Chi Onwurah said, “I would be lying if I said I was not very proud to be the first MP elected.”
(Featured image courtesy of Tiocfiadh ar la 1916, from Flickr Creative Commons)